Ferneybeds surface mine planning application recommended for approval by county council officers

March 27, 2013 | Brenkley News


Plans for a proposed new surface mine in south east Northumberland have been recommended for approval by the County Council’s planning officers.

Regional employer Banks Mining’s proposed Ferneybeds scheme, which would be located to the south of the village of Widdrington Station, is scheduled to go before the County Council’s planning committee next Tuesday (2 April).

The officers’ report notes that they believe “the proposed development can be carried out in an environmentally acceptable manner consistent with the principles of sustainable development without resulting in significant adverse impacts on the local community and environment.”

It also states that “the potential benefits of provision of indigenous coal, provision of employment and the enhanced landscape and ecology arising from the restoration proposals are sufficient to outweigh any potential residual short to medium term impact on local communities and the environment.”

The Ferneybeds scheme, which would see around 752,000 tonnes of coal extracted from a 96 hectare site over a three-year period, has already won the backing of the local Widdrington Station & Stobswood Parish Council..

The Parish Council’s letter of support “commends Banks in taking notice of comments made at Community Workshop meetings” that were held as part of the public consultation process around the project, and for “taking on board residents’ concerns in regard to access and egress of the site.”

The Ferneybeds mine would directly support around 40 local jobs, as well as bringing substantial new revenues into the local economy and supporting many other jobs in supply chain businesses.

The detail of the planning application was finalised with the help of around 20 local residents and community representatives who took part in a series of community design workshops which were set up by Banks in order to give local people a strong voice in the scheme’s development, with the outcomes of the discussions were used by the Banks design team to help refine and improve their proposals in line with panel members’ comments.

A new community benefits fund worth around £75,000 forms part of the Ferneybeds proposal, and would enable Banks to continue to deliver a range of community and environmental improvements in partnership with local people, with a new nature corridor also being included in the restoration of the site to help enhance the habitats for local wildlife.

Banks Mining already employs more than 200 people, most of whom are employed at the Shotton surface mine in south east Northumberland and the Brenkley Lane surface mine in Newcastle, and has maintained an operational presence in this area for more than three decades.

The company recently instigated a new apprenticeship scheme in south east Northumberland, which has seen four local young people join Banks’ plant maintenance team at the existing Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines, as well as receiving a comprehensive two-year training programme that will be delivered by Northumberland College.

Mark Dowdall, Banks’ environment and community director, says: “This is a high quality proposal developed with the close involvement of a wide cross-section of the local community, and we’re pleased that its many merits have been recognised by Northumberland County Council’s planning officers.

“Involving the local community in the design of this project from the beginning enabled us to understand the views of people living around the Ferneybeds site, and amending our plans to reflect what they told us has meant that we have secured considerable community support for the proposals we submitted.

“Coal will remain a central part of the UK’s energy mix for the foreseeable future, with production from appropriate sites within the UK being far more desirable than relying on imports for environmental, economic and supply continuity reasons, and we know there will be great demand for the high quality materials that we would extract from the Ferneybeds site.

“As a major regional employer, we are looking to continue our long-term investment in local jobs, the local supply chain and local communities, and we very much hope the members of the County Council’s planning committee will follow the recommendation of their officers when they review our planning application.”

Anyone wanting more information on the proposals should contact the project team on 0191 378 6100 or via enquiries@banksgroup.co.uk

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